Late single pushes Ohio Longhorn to Palomino final
Baird Brothers must beat Knightline to force a rematch
By BOB ETTINGER
Jake Richards hadn’t had an easy road through the PONY Palomino East tournament at Cene Park.
He finally broke through with a two-run single in the sixth to cement a 4-0 Ohio Longhorns victory over Baird Brothers in the championship bracket final of the double-elimination event on Friday night.
The Longhorns have to win just once on Saturday to claim a berth in the PONY Palomino World Series in Laredo, Texas next week.
“We have just enough pitching for two games (if we lose our first one today),” Longhorns manager Jerry DeMarino said. “That was big for us.”
Baird Brothers must win three times to win the title.
“They’ve got to beat us twice [including Friday night],” Baird Brothers manager Don Pletcher said. “We don’t think they can do it. We’ll come back [today] and put it together. We’ll try to move on. Don’t be surprised to see us run the table.”
Leading, 1-0, despite being no-hit entering the sixth, the Longhorns put together a three-run rally to put the game out of reach.
“Their starter [Marshall McGraw] has a very hard fastball and a slow, hard-breaking curveball,” DeMarino said.
“We were swinging over the curveball and we were behind the fastball. We kept telling them stay on the back side and our first hit was on the back side. Hitting is contagious and the next guy singled. Jake Richards has been struggling and that was a huge hit by him.”
Brett Rhodes reached on an error to start the inning. Daniel Noe broke up McGraw’s no-hit bid with a single to right and Eric Schilling followed with a single back through the middle to load the bases. Rhodes scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
After a strikeout, Richards singled right back up the middle past a drawn-in infield to plate Noe and Schilling to put the game out of reach.”
“[Richards] stayed with it and didn’t lose confidence,” DeMarino said. “He’s a good hitter and he stayed with it. [McGraw] is a great pitcher and [Richards] finally made good contact up the middle.”
Rhodes, a lefty, worked 62/3 innings [he was pulled with two outs in the seventh after reaching the pitch-count limits] struck out eight in the win.
“Hat’s off to the kid,” Pletcher said. “He threw a heck of a game. If you shut us out, my hat’s off to you. He had a good two-seamer. It was moving. He started it outside the plate and it was cutting in. We had a tough time adjusting. They knew it was coming. They were coming back to the dugout telling the others about it.”
Rhodes allowed three hits and walked three.
“Pretty much all of my pitches were working,” Rhodes said. “The defense played well behind me. I was able to hit the corners and keep them off balance. I was keeping [the two-seam fastball] on the outside corner. It’s harder to hit out there.”
McGraw pitched all seven innings in the loss. He fanned 11 and allowed four runs — two earned — on four hits. He walked four and the Baird Brothers defense committed three errors.
“That’s life,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes you don’t have your best stuff and the team goes out and gets a lot of hits around you. Some nights you’re on and you lose. That’s baseball.”
Jake McCaskey led Baird Brothers with two hits and Noe had two base knocks for the Longhorns.